Weather Lore: Can You Really Fry an Egg on the Sidewalk?

Fry and Egg on the Sidewalk
Fry and Egg on the Sidewalk

Thunder Bay – WEATHER – Ah, the age-old summer question: is it really so hot that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk? This sunny speculation often has sidewalk sous-chefs and hot-footed pedestrians alike pondering the plausibility of such a feat​1​.

Firstly, it’s important to clarify that this saying is intended more as a hyperbolic expression of the heat rather than a literal culinary challenge. However, for those looking to spice up their summer days with a bit of sidewalk gastronomy, let’s delve into the science behind it.

The main hurdle for our would-be pavement patissiers isn’t so much the ambient temperature, but the cooking surface itself.

Sidewalks, typically made of concrete, are pretty lousy conductors of heat. So even if it feels like you could cook breakfast on the surface, the sidewalk may not transfer enough heat to the egg to take it from raw to ready for your toast​1​.

For those determined to try out this high-temperature hijinks, asphalt, not concrete, might be your best bet. During the 2018 heatwave, reporters in Phoenix, Arizona measured asphalt temperatures that reached a scorching 161 degrees Fahrenheit​1​. According to the American Egg Board, egg whites coagulate between 144 and 149 degrees Fahrenheit, and yolks firm up between 149 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit​1​. So technically, the heat’s on… or is it?

Here’s the catch: when the egg hits the street, the surface cools slightly. Without a burner beneath the asphalt to quickly crank up the heat again, the temperature doesn’t recover as swiftly as it would in a pan on your stove​1​.

Even if the surface heat of the street is intense, you’ll likely need a skillet to conduct that heat. Some sizzling successes have been reported using a preheated cast-iron skillet on a 115-degree Arizona day. Others recommend using metal pans and doing the cooking on the hood of a car rather than the street​1​. But let’s be honest, once we’ve shifted the venue from sidewalk to street or car hood, and introduced cooking utensils into the equation, haven’t we strayed from the initial challenge?

In conclusion, while it’s a fun thought, you’re probably better off leaving your egg-cracking to the kitchen and your walks to the sidewalk. The phrase “hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk” remains firmly in the realm of hyperbole – unless the street temperature gets a lot higher, that is​1​. So next time you hear this saying, you can smile, safe in the knowledge of the science behind it. And remember, if you do decide to experiment, cleaning up an egg off the sidewalk or your car is no yolk!

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